Less is More, Except When it’s Not

By Master Eric Sbarge

Last month I wrote about the tai chi concept of “investing in loss” and discussed the importance of learning how to give up in order to gain. Now I want to address the idea of less being more, especially as it pertains to our martial arts and yoga.

Yes, we do want less effort to give us the greatest results; less tension to allow for more energy cultivation; less worry to allow for more inner peace, and so forth. But sometimes less is not more.

For example, is less practice more beneficial? Usually not. If we graph more practice on one axis and greater results on the other, there will come a time where the line levels off and then eventually reverses itself. At a certain point extra practice offers no noticeable improvement, and at some point beyond that the extra practice can exhaust our energy or create stress injuries or simply cause a counter-productive mental burnout.

But realistically, are you usually at the point where you’ve over-practiced, or are you simply failing to practice consistently and fully and so when you do practice hard it may seem overly stressful or challenging to you? I would argue that for most students it is the latter.

Be that as it may, the extra challenge (or enjoyment) of periodically practicing harder and more deeply than you normally do is really beneficial. When you have the opportunity to train extra hard for a tournament, or immerse yourself in day-long or even week-long intensive workshops or retreats, you almost always end up better for it.

Maybe the answer is to do more of doing less?

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